pot luck (n): an event/meal to which each guest contributes a dish, which contributions ought to be directed at least a little bit, otherwise 80% of people will bring dessert.
For Thanksgiving, Vickie and I decided to have a potluck with the students. It was great. It was also 80% dessert, 10% pizza, 5% fruit, and 5% meatballs. Sounds like a real winner of a dinner, right? (But pumpkin pie can definitely pass for a vegetable, so we had all the food groups covered, no worries.)
Planning this event was somewhat of a headache. Originally, we were going to have it in the room where we always have English Club. Our contact, Anton, nixed that, because “the atmosphere is not good.” Vickie and I, being not only frugal but also apparently not that aversely affected by fluorescent lights, were dubious. In the end, we were convinced by the limited seating space to find a different location.
We settled on the cafeteria in the basement of the main building. They could provide us with plates/silverware, cleaning service, a microwave… the important stuff. They could even provide food! We toyed with the idea of asking them to give us turkey and mashed potatoes for each person, but then we thought that kind of missed the idea of Thanksgiving (i.e. sharing what we have, not just sitting down and enjoying the fact that we have a lot of food). So we paid them a per-person service fee the morning of the event, crossed our fingers, and hoped that approximately 30 people would show up (but not more). Come to think of it, our attendance estimate was definitely a Price is Right game. And we won! 25 people came… just about ideal.
And, as previously stated, 80% of them brought dessert. But I’m not complaining. I now have about 5 cakes in my refrigerator.
At the beginning, Vickie and I gave a little speech to the effect of “this is what Thanksgiving means to us, and this is why we’re glad to spend it with you.” I don’t think anybody cried, so that’s good.
Then we ate. So much pie.
We also went around the room and said what we were thankful for, in good family tradition/English language practice. It was a little awkward, because giving thanks usually/always implies saying thank you for something, to someone. And in my family, this usually comes in the form of prayer, saying thank you for something, to God. But in this context, that would have been inappropriate, and also uncomfortable for the majority of our students. So some people expressed thanks to their parents, others to the International Department, others to us, others to the universe, others to God, others to no one in particular. This was a good reminder for me that thanks definitely has to have a direction… it can’t be just a cloudy feeling of happiness that I have a lot of stuff, or a lot of food, or whatever.
Like I said earlier, the point of a Thanksgiving meal is the giving and the receiving, not just the sitting and gorging. It was always that way, as far back as the “first Thanksgiving,” with the pilgrims and Native Americans and all. So maybe the point of all of the rest of our lives should also be the giving and the receiving, not just the sitting and gorging. And with that kind of orientation, I think thanks comes pretty naturally.
All that said: really thankful to Vickie for putting up with me all year…
…and to my family for putting up with me all my life…
…and to God for putting them all in my life, because I have a hard time believing that was an accident.